Politically Correct

When originally coined by Leon Trotsky in the 1920’s, “politically correct” was a term reflecting favorably on those in line with Bolshevik Party positions -  as in "What is needed now is a politically correct, class-conscious and militant leadership, which will lead an armed struggle to abolish the whole system of exploitation of man by man in Indonesia and establish a workers state!"

When the term began to be used in the U.S. in the 1960’s it remained a largely positive reference on the left - even welcomed as an expression of multiculturalism.

But starting in the 1980’s with Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind – and heightened in the early 1990’s with Newsweek’s story “THOUGHT POLICE" the word began to take on a decisively negative feel for most Americans. At this time, President George Herbert Walker Bush cautioned that "the notion of political correctness" was replacing "old prejudices with new ones." In particular, conservative-leaning Americans began to emphasize this term as reflecting the intolerance they sometimes experienced from the left.

More recently, this same term has come to be used by people in many different socio-political camps, to refer to a particular code of speech or thought being enforced rigidly or with too much force.  Whereas in the past, PC meant left – now even the left was using the term [Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect]As one author summarized, “Thus PC has lost any specific meaning…since everyone defines their position as the now chic “not PC,” and their opponents as “PC.”

In the context of the liberal tradition on both the right and the left there are concerns about political correctness undermining the importance of free speech and fostering an open forum for addressing all issues in a free society.


John Kesler, Jacob Hess

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